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Clippers - Knicks Preview

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Stop three on the Clippers seven game Eastern Conference road trip is Madison Square Garden.  Having split the first two and still hoping to win at least four on the trip, the Clippers can't afford to slip against the 21-28 Knicks  - not with 3 of the next 4 games against teams with winning records.

In their previous meeting in Staples Center, the Clippers trounced the Knicks 90-80 in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated.  Elton Brand had a monster game with 32 points and 8 blocked shots.  The Clippers as a team blocked 16 in the game, which was a major factor in holding the Knicks to 34.5% shooting.  Bad nights from Stephon Marbury (3-13) and Jamal Crawford (2-8) didn't help New York's cause.

In an attempt to slow Brand down this time, the Knicks will apparently go HUGE and start Jerome James (7'1" 280) at the power forward next to center Eddy Curry (6'11" 285).  That's a big front court - James is listed at 280, but he probably ways more than that.  In the past, teams have had success guarding EB with size - but that was the old EB.  The new EB will just take James a little further away from the basket, and either shoot over him or drive around him.  Apparently Isiah didn't see what Elton did to Mike Sweetney of Chicago last week.

Isiah's a funny one.  With David Lee putting up unreal numbers in limited minutes as a reserve (10.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, over 60% shooting), everyone was wondering why Channing Frye was the starter.  So Isiah benched Frye - in favor of James.  Now he's got two second year power forwards coming of the bench.  Wacky.

Former Clipper Quentin Richardson, who missed the game in LA, is having a nice season for the Knicks, averaging 13.1 points and 7.3 rebounds and shooting 38% on his threes.  Oh, and a little sidenote to Knicks players who think some sort of pro-Larry Brown conspiracy kept Eddy Curry off the All-Star team - if your center is getting fewer rebounds per game than your small forward, Larry Brown is not the problem.  

Curry is having a very good year offensively, averaging 19.5 points per game on eye-popping 58% shooting.  He always could score.  If he ever got into top shape and actually played the game when he didn't have the ball in his hands, he could be scary good.

You may be wondering why the Knicks shoot so poorly as a team (46%) when they have two players among the league leaders in shooting percentage.  Well, the rest of the team's shooting percentages are not so good:  Marbury 42%, Richardson 42%, Crawford 40%, etc.

And what exactly happened to Steph?  Averaging well over 20 points per game in his first 9 seasons in the NBA, he dropped to 16.3 in the Larry Brown year.  Brown is out, Isiah is in, everyone was talking about the return of Starbury - and he's averaging 14.5.  What?  I can understand if they want to run the offense through Curry, but 14.5?  Not even Brown held him to 14.5.  He's only 29 - is he done at 29?  I don't get it.

Nonetheless, the Clippers should be wary of this game.  Marbury has had some HUGE games against them in the past.  The Clippers match up well to New York's size, but it is really important that Kaman play well.  He needs to play tough defense, stay out of foul trouble, and at least hold his own.  Aaron Williams has been hurting, and Paul Davis is a rookie.  MDSr doesn't usually go small unless the opponent goes small first, so I don't expect to see Brand on Curry.  If Kaman gets in foul trouble or simply disappears, it could be a long night for Brand and whoever they put with him in the front court.  

If the Clippers perimeter defenders can stifle Crawford and Marbury the way they did in LA, and Kaman can hold his own with Curry, the Clippers should win this game.